I’m walking the Larapinta Trail. It runs west from Alice Springs, out along the Macdonnell Ranges for over 200 km. It is a privilege to be doing this; to be passing through this country day after day, and everywhere, all the time, I am conscious of how fragile life is. For a flower, a bird, a lizard, a tree to survive here is a little bit of a miracle. My own survival is also precarious – much more so than I realize when I am in the city. A sprained ankle, a snake bight, a wrong turn in the trail could finish me off.
And then there is water. Sometimes I have t walk 35 km between water sources. For two days, I need to carry at least 8 litres – 8 kilograms – of water on my back. And I am reliant on there being water in the hole or the tank at the other end. If it does not, I am again just a whisker away from dying.
In truth, it is the same in the city. I rely on being able to turn on the tap, and I never think that water will not come out. But if it didn’t, if I could not get water, I would die in a few days. This is how important Water is to our lives. It is what we are made of, more than any other substance.
Out here in the desert I am much more aware of how important it is, how perhaps only air is more immediate to my survival. Water – simple, mostly unnoticed – is really a treasure beyond almost anything else in value. It is priceless, yet it is free. And it is free also in spirit – it moves through this earth like Gaia’s lifeblood. It runs, falls, rises, flows. It is almost a perfect metaphor for purity and vitality and freedom.
When we put water into a plastic bottle, all this is lost. It becomes a commodity that some have and others do not. It is poisoned with PCP’s and other chemicals. It is held – still and lifeless and contained – its qualities of life completely suppressed.
Out here in the desert, where the real value of water has meaning, it is easy to see that the whole story of water has been terribly cheapened and twisted by the process of commodification. This is the spiritual travesty of bottled water – so hard to see in the city, where everything has its price, but so simple and obvious in the desert where nothing has value like water.
Unbottled water – let your water be free.